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Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture)

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Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture): Raising Rabbits for Meat

If you’re interested in the idea of commercial rabbit farming or cuniculture, then we’re here to help you out.

For many people, rabbits are small, quiet, docile pets they give to their children to teach them responsibility. But, for others, they are an invaluable food source that’s easy to raise and breed [1].

The rabbit farming business is sustainable enough that once a method is in place, it’s not likely to fail. But first, you need to know what you’re doing.

Benefits of Raising Rabbits

Rabbits are very low maintenance. They don’t need a ton of space to be happy, they’re very quiet, and can be charming.

Even if you get into the process of rabbit rearing, intending to gain a self-sustaining food source, you might be surprised at how attached you become to some bunnies.

Some farmers even enter them into contests. They’re also a great first-time pet for children because of their easy care and lack of need for constant attention.

Females produce fairly large litters at a time and can breed a few times a year.

They also grow quickly at little cost, and their meat is very tasty and nutritious without any religious taboos. Along with the meat, you can also use their manure for fertilizer.

If you can handle the idea of raising rabbits for meat, they’re a very inexpensive investment to start off.

Breeds

You’re spoiled for choice when choosing what rabbit breeds to focus on. There are a ton of different options [2].

  • Continental giant
  • Dark Grays
  • Netherland dwarf
  • Fox
  • Lionhead
  • Dutch
  • Mini Rex
  • New Zealand’s (both white and black varieties)
  • New Zealand Red
  • Californian
  • Belgium white
  • Flemish giant
  • English lop
  • Chinchilla
  • Holland lop
  • Beveren
  • American fuzzy

These are all popular rabbit breeds for their productivity and relative ease in raising. The Polish are also popular, though they’re mainly for show purposes or as domestic bunny rabbits.

The only problem you’re likely to run into once you’ve made your decision is where to find the type you want. Some are easier to find in certain regions than others, so if you’re set on a certain kind, prepare to spend a little extra getting it.

Production

You have a couple of methods available to you.

There is the Deep Litter Method, which is best for small populations. This method requires a concrete floor and a 4-5 inch deep litter husk lined with straw, hay, or wood shavings.

Deep litter will produce and support up to 30 rabbits, with the two sexes separated from one another.

Keep in mind that with this method, you have a higher chance of disease spreading through the herd.

The second is the Cage Method, which, as it sounds, keeps them in cages versus the free-roaming hutch.

This is optimal for raising larger numbers of rabbits commercially.

1. Feeding

Rabbit rearing is inexpensive when it comes to feeding. The type of food will vary depending on their age and breed.

Adult rabbits require 12 to 20% crude protein in their diet, 15 to 20% fiber, 4 to 7% minerals, and 43 to 50% carbohydrate.

This can all be found in veggies such as spinach, kale, carrot, parsnip, and cucumber. You can also give them green grass and vegetable scraps.

Additionally, ensure they have a generous and clean source of fresh water and you are good to go. Rabbits are not only inexpensive to acquire and keep, but they’re easy to feed as well.

2. Breeding

Time to let bunnies do what bunnies do best — make more bunnies.

At around 5 to 6 months, they become mature enough for reproduction. But, do not put them together until the males are at least one year old, to ensure quality stock.

This may go without saying, but if you have a sick one, don’t breed it. Give extra care to those intended for breeding. Once pregnant, females will gestate for anywhere from 28-31 days.

Does will deliver anywhere from 1 to 14 kits at a time.

3. The Best Rabbits for Meat

If you’re into rabbit rearing for meat, then you have several options to choose from.

You’ll want a breed that is on the larger side and produces lean, muscular meat, and gives birth to larger litters.

With this in mind, the New Zealands, Californians, and Champagne d’Argents are good choices, particularly if you’re just starting out.

They’re very muscular and will be ready to butcher at about eight weeks old.

Many doctors recommend white meat over others due to its lean nature, making it good for people with heart conditions.

It has a similar taste to chicken and it’s easy to prepare as well.

4. Killing Methods

This is the big one — the one every first-timer probably dreads.

If you’ve ever had rabbit meat, how did it taste? Was it sweet and tender, sort of like chicken?

Well, if it was, then you can rest easy that the rabbit died peacefully and humanely, without its instinctive fear responses.

There are three potential ways of killing them, but most recommend the first method below:

The Broomstick:

Place the rabbit on the ground, in front of its favorite treat to distract it. Next, place a broomstick handle across its neck.

As you step on the other side of the handle to hold it in place, grab the hind legs and stand up straight as you’re pulling upwards at a ninety-degree angle.

This will create a sort of stretching, giving a sensation as you feel the bones of the neck detach.

The rabbit will enter its death throes. This means that the brain has been cut off from the body, preventing all essential functions.

The broomstick is a favorite method because the animal will only feel maybe a half-second of it, if anything. It won’t have time to feel afraid.

The Arterial Bleed:

This method isn’t highly recommended on the basis that it doesn’t kill immediately.

Still, if you do it right, the rabbit shouldn’t feel anything more than a sudden, heavy drowsy sensation before going to sleep.

As before, place it in front of a treat to distract it. Slice quickly through the jugular veins.

Within a minute, it will be dead and ready for hanging and draining.

Fatal Blow:

This one is only recommended for those who know what they’re doing. It’s humane, but it has to be done carefully so as not to cause any suffering.

Hold the rabbit by its hind feet so the ears form a perfect V shape. Strike sharply and fast directly behind the V shape on the back of the head.

If done correctly, the fatal blow should have the same effect as the broomstick method.

Whatever your killing method, you can take comfort in the fact that they die far more humanely than in the wild. There, they are often still alive and terrified as they are torn apart by predators.

Utilizing Rabbit Manure

Rabbit manure is a great organic fertilizer. It is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Rabbit poop is also dry and odorless, so it’s easy to collect and distribute without a huge mess.

The pellets will collect together in the bottom of the hutch, so gathering them is a breeze. Plus, you’ll get a ton of manure from your rabbit farm. Rabbits poop a lot!

Takeaway

With the great demand for white meat, having a commercial rabbit farm is a promising opportunity.

Aside from the relative ease in caring for them, their meat is nutritious and quite tasty. If you’re looking to start your own business, this venture might be the ticket for you.

Image via commons.wikimedia

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

1 comment

  • My family raised rabbits for meat when we lived in Mexico. We grew up very poor so it was nice having good food for cheap.

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